Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More numbers again

Yesterday afternoon I went for a six month follow up with my oncologist. I realized in the morning that I should have some questions to ask her. I mean why see an oncologist if you have no concerns? So I had to think.

After some deep thought I came up with issue number one - what about staying on Femara longer? New research has shown that longer is better in terms of preventing recurrence of breast cancer. I did not see her in person on my last visit to her office as she had the flu but I had spoken to her afterwards.

Then I decided I needed the big question answered. What is my prognosis for recurrence? I did ask my previous oncologist this once right after treatment ended, before he moved on to research. But that was five years ago and I haven't asked for an update. Why not? It is a big question but I figured I should know. Why have I gone through all this treatment and follow up anyway?

After pondering this for a few hours, I decided this was it. When I met with her, we discussed me and Femara first. The real issue is that I am handling it well - particularly my bone density has been stable which is a big criteria. Its one thing to prevent cancer recurrence but another thing to give you osteoporosis in the meantime. But my bone density is stable so its a go.

The added benefit of additional years of  Femara is seen in the ensuing years. So if I take Femara from 2010-2015, I will continue to see the benefit in 2015-2020. I can live with that.

My next question I think was a bit of a surprise for my oncologist but I did ask her what is my likelihood of recurrence. She said its probably less than 10% at this point based on my diagnosis specifics and treatment. I thought that wasn't bad.

But I immediately went home and looked up breast cancer statistics and see how I compared. A normal 50 year old woman has a 2.38% chance of getting breast cancer in the next ten years. But I have already skewed the odds that say a 40 year old woman has a 1.47% chance of getting breast cancer by age 50.

So its all a bunch of numbers but I can't let them mean much to me.

But the best news is I don't have to go back and see her again for a year.

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